On December 1, 2017, the Inspection Panel received a Request for Inspection of the Republic of Cameroon: Lom Pangar Hydropower Project from two former workers of the project. They alleged unpaid overtime work; indecent working conditions; unpaid social security dues and thus inability to benefit from the social security system; dismissal of all workers who contracted Hepatitis B on the project site; and “abandonment” of workers who suffered “drastic” industrial accidents on the site. The Request also included a September 2015 report titled, “World Bank Project Exploiting Human Labor: Lom Pangar Hydro Project in Cameroon,” which the Requesters asked to be a part of the complaint. In addition to the issues mentioned above, the report included concerns relating to working hours, workers’ weekly rest, annual leave, right to work issues, job security, occupational safety and health, discrimination based on race, and retrenchment.
After conducting initial due diligence and confirming that the Request met the Panel’s admissibility criteria, the Panel registered it on December 22, 2017.
Management issued its response on February 9, 2018, stating that the Bank had carefully reviewed the issues raised in the Request and noting that they were known to the Bank and borrower. Management explained that the Bank has worked during the implementation of the project to satisfactorily address and resolve the issues. Management said it recognizes that, in light of the significant turnover in the workforce over the lifetime of the project, some of the measures put in place by the borrower and contractor over the years may not have benefited every worker who left the worksite before these measures were implemented. Management said it has agreed with the borrower on an Action Plan, which stipulates that the existing Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) would continue to receive and process current and previous project-related complaints, and that the Bank would support the borrower in a targeted effort to identify current or former workers who may have unresolved grievances, and would continue, and further strengthen where needed, supervision and implementation support.
On March 13, 2018, Management submitted an addendum to its response, explaining the developments in the implementation of its Action Plan. The addendum explained that the Bank agreed with the borrower to extend the scope and staffing of the project’s GRM to review and address grievances of current and former workers, and that the borrower would conduct a communications campaign to reach out to current and former workers to inform them of the extended GRM. According to the addendum, the Bank also recruited a local consultant to support supervision, the design of the extended GRM and the outreach campaign. The addendum also explained that the Bank recommended the extension of the environmental and social panel of experts and the independent environmental and social auditors, and that the extension processes are underway.
The Panel on March 16, 2018, recommended to the Board that the project not be investigated. In making that recommendation, the Panel took into account management’s acknowledgement of the issues raised in the Request and its commitment to work closely with the borrower to understand and address any outstanding grievances. Management committed to provide detailed feedback on the implementation of its Action Plan and its results within a year.
The Board on March 30, 2018, approved the Panel’s recommendation.